Daily Dispatch

R2.8m desk disaster in 21 schools


A COMPANY that delivered R2.8million worth of poor quality desks to Eastern Cape schools last month has been given seven days to remove them and a further 30 days to replace them.

The contract was part of a R39million tender issued to Milani Furniture last year to furnish empty classrooms across the province.

The company agreed to deliver 2 500 desks to 21 schools in Engcobo, Dutywa, Dimbaza, King William’s Town and Zwelitsha.

Acting provincial education head Sizakele Netshilaph­ala confirmed to the Daily Dispatch this week that she withheld the R2.8-million payment to Milani after an independen­t investigat­or found them to be defective and a high risk for pupils.

In a letter to the company, Netshilaph­ala wrote: “Due to poor quality of the product that was delivered, DoE is not prepared to accept the deliveries and to make payment for the product.”

The details of the company’s shoddy workmanshi­p are contained in a letter Netshilaph­ala wrote to provincial treasury last Thursday.

The independen­t investigat­or, who conducted an inspection at 10 schools, found:

● The wood is not properly treated, and wooden tops are cracking;

● Milani used plough bolts to fix the wooden tops to the metal frames leaving the heads of bolts to catch on pupils’ books and papers; and

● The metal frames are made from pipes and the ends are not properly smoothed, leaving sharp edges without protective rubber or plastic plugs.

Milani director Mthunzi Deliwe denied the claims, saying all the schools had signed letters confirming the desks were fine.

“If they were to conduct an audit, it would have been fair if they also took us with them as part of the delegation,” said Deliwe.

But a visit to one of the 21 schools confirms that at all.

Richard Vara Senior Secondary School in Dimbaza was one of the beneficiar­ies.

School principal Sicelo Adonis would not comment on the quality of desks, saying only: “I am not allowed to talk on behalf of the school without permission from the employer.

The double desks with compartmen­ts to store books replace single desks with separate chairs. The new ones were delivered last month and they have been cited as some of the desks sampled by the independen­t investigat­or which, according to the report, have defects. pupils are not satisfied

“As much as we support small business developmen­t, we are not prepared to accept this poor quali Netshilaph­ale said.

But Deliwe said they are not taking this lying down.

“We have since asked the department to give us this report.

“They are delaying deliveries while pupils are waiting for desks. The department is playing hide and seek,” he added.

Netshilaph­ale said they had decided on a policy of doing spot checks because “we do not know who is delivering poor quality goods and we are trying to encourage schools to come forward”. —

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